Fire at Red Hook warehouse that stored NYPD evidence contained; cause and extent of damage still unclear

fire truck at red hook warehouse fire
The evidence warehouse at 700 Columbia St stored both biological evidence and impounded vehicles.
Photo by Paul Frangipane

A three-alarm fire in a Red Hook warehouse that stored decades-old New York City Police Department evidence has been contained as of Wednesday afternoon, though firefighters remain on the scene working to extinguish the remaining pockets of blaze.

Independent contractors working in the 700 Columbia St. building on Tuesday morning alerted authorities after they spotted the beginnings of the fire, which rapidly grew in size. Firefighters attempted to control the flames from inside the building, but were forced to retreat after a section of the warehouse collapsed, FDNY Chief of Department John Hodgens said at a Dec. 14 press conference. 

firefighters in rubble of red hook warehouse fire
Firefighters and FDNY and NYPD investigators combed through the rubble at the scene of the fire on Dec. 14. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell
fire investigators on the scene of the fire
The NYPD’s Arson & Explosions Squad arrived at the scene of the fire on Dec. 14. The cause of the fire and the extent of the damage has not yet been determined. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Hodgens said the fire was likely to burn for “a few days” as the department attempted to control the flames using FDNY boats, but a department representative told Brooklyn on Wednesday the blaze was under control. Eight people — three firefighters, three EMS responders, and two civilians — suffered minor injuries. 

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, according to an FDNY representative. Fire department investigators and the NYPD’s Arson & Explosion Squad were at the scene of the fire Wednesday morning as teams began to sift through the rubble, and at one point had to clear the block to battle a flare-up. The city’s Office of Emergency Management filed a request for a structural stability inspection at the warehouse on Dec. 14, according to city records. 

fdny boat at red hook fire
The FDNY was forced to battle the fire from outside after part of the warehouse collapsed. Pockets of fire are still smoldering a day after the blaze broke out. Photo by Paul Frangipane
burned shoe outside red hook warehouse fire
Some burned evidence sat in puddles of water outside the warehouse on Dec. 14. A significant amount of evidence from past crimes was stored in the building. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

According to NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey B. Maddrey, the waterfront warehouse stored “a lot of biological evidence,” some of which was up to 30 years old, as well as impounded cars, e-bikes, and historic vehicles. It was not immediately clear if evidence from recent incidents was stored at the facility, and Maddrey said NYPD and FDNY specialists would work to determine the extent of the damage after the fire was fully extinguished. 

The lithium-ion batteries used to power the confiscated e-bikes stored at the facility are notorious for catching fire — especially if they’re damaged or poorly-maintained. According to THE CITY, the batteries have caused nearly 200 fires this year alone. Earlier this year, the NYPD destroyed almost 100 illegal dirt bikes at the Red Hook facility. At the time, Mayor Eric Adams said the NYPD had confiscated about 900 illegal bikes and ATVs in 2022.

motorcycles and ebikes outside red hook warehouse fire
The warehouse and impound lot stored hundreds of e-bikes, motorcycles, mopeds and other vehicles.Photo by Lloyd Mitchell
red hook warehouse after fire
Parts of the warehouse collapsed in the fire, forcing firefighters to battle the blaze from outside. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

It was not immediately clear if there were smoke alarms or sprinklers installed in the building. The NYPD warehouse is one of several housed at the Erie Basin Bargeport, which is owned and operated by the Erie Basin Marine Associates. According to the facility’s website, the Associates purchased the port from the Port Authority in 1992.